By Eric Beasley
Editor’s Note: Updated 3/15/2017 to reflect additional information about Mr. Wahbe, Secretary of Planning from 1969-1979.
In a blatantly partisan move, Senate Democrats in Annapolis have decided to play partisan games with Governor Hogan’s cabinet appointees. These efforts to obstruct the State Government are being headed up by Senator Bill Ferguson, Senator DeGrange, and Senator Miller. Let’s dive into the
idiotic statements and anti-science complaints levied against Wendi Peters.
In committee, Ms. Peters was voted 11-6 against appointment as the Secretary of Planning. There were three main complaints made about her job performance over the last 7 months: Enforcing professionalism in the office, installing “spyware” on employee computers, and not being a certified planner.
During the hearings, Senate Democrats made issue with some office policies that were allegedly put in place by Ms. Peters. One policy was an office dress code where employees were expected to dress like they had a real job. I have been informed that this dress code merely meant that employees could not wear jeans and t-shirts to work every day. You know, basically the same expectation of 99% of the world’s workforce.
The other aspect was related to employee cubicles. A source in Annapolis informed me that some cubicle spaces looked like my toddler’s room more than they resembled a professional office. Again, just like with the dress code, this is how a professional organization should operate.
Why does this grind the gears of the Democrats? Do they prefer their employees to come to work in their pajamas and spend 8 hours in a pig sty?
This one irks me the most, as an IT Security Professional. I have submitted a PIA to find out what this so-called “spyware” actually is. When I get my response I’ll be sure to post an update.
First off, if you operate an enterprise level network environment and do not have a program that could be called “spyware” on your computers, then you are an absolute moron and deserve to have your entire system hacked. “Spyware” is a program that monitors activity on said computer. In order to adequately monitor a computer network, the ISSO (Information Security Systems Officer) has to be able to actually monitor the network.
Let me put it this way. I know government organizations that have such advanced “spyware” that they can tell you the name of the wireless network that your take-home government computer is connected to. While it is sitting in your office. Yet, I have not seen that cabinet secretary dragged through the mud during a confirmation hearing.
Second off, any program that can be categorized as “spyware” can also be called a SIEM (security information and event management) solution. What does that actually mean? It is an application that stores computer logs for later review. Say, in the event of a hacker breaching the network or an employee leaks/sells confidential information. SIEM allows investigators to pinpoint the source of the malware, how it happened, when it happened, and lets them prevent further intrusions.
Thirdly, “spyware” can also include necessary application likes bandwidth monitoring software to ensure that the local network doesn’t operate like dial-up. Think about it, we’re talking about the Department of Planning here. That means their entire job revolves around detailed maps and interactive programs to “plan” the state.
Fourthly (yes I may be making up words now), the employees are using Government computers. They do not own the computer, the network, the internet connection, nor does any government employee have a reasonable expectation of privacy on their state-provided computer. As determined by Coats v. Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, government employees do not have the right to privacy in their cubicles. Also as determined by O’Connor v. Ortega, “government employees who are notified that their employer has retained rights to access or inspect information stored on the employer’s computers can have no reasonable expectation of privacy in the information stored there.” Therefore, if Maryland operates the same way as every other government and corporate entity, they have a policy which gives them the right to inspect computers at will.
In case you are wondering, I just finished a class on digital forensic procedures and the final project was all about expectations of privacy and seizing evidence. I’ll forget about these cases in 6 months.
Lastly (don’t think this is a made up word), even without “spyware” on every computer, any central network like the Department of Planning could be “spied” on with great ease. If the actual goal was to spy on her employees, Ms. Peters would have asked her IT people to monitor everything on the network. That would involve a single laptop plugged into DOP’s router and running Wireshark. From there, the IT staff could intercept every single little bit, byte, and IP address of network traffic going across their network. You could extract usernames, passwords, and all internet activity for every single employee.
It’s clear to me that “spying” was not what happened here. It sounds to me like Peters decided to use a legitimate software for legitimate business purposes and the Technological Luddites Anti-Science members of the Democrat Party lied during the committee hearings.
Another refrain from the Democrats was that Ms. Peters was not a certified planner. So there’s only one way to really address this, which past Secretaries of Planning were “planners”? Please note that I am only including relevant experience from before they were appointed as the Secretary of Planning.
Vladimir A. Wahbe, 1969-79
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information about Mr. Wahbe for the purposes of this article.
EDIT: I was told my a reader that Mr. Wahbe was the Chief City Engineer in Damascus, Syria, prior to immigrating to the United States. He was also a planner in Baltimore County. While not traditionally “certified”, I feel comfortable placing him in the category of “certified.”
Constance Lieder, 1979-89
Ms. Leider was an academic, holding multiple degrees in design and teaching “social work and community planning”. It was only in 1977 that she was certified as a “planner”, prior to that she taught planning-related courses at various universities.
From 1989 to 2000, Department lost its cabinet status & functioned as Office of Planning. Therefore, no Secretary.
Harriet Tregoning, 2000-01
Between 1982 and 2000, Ms. Tregoning worked for the State of California and the EPA on environmental issues. No previous experience or education in “planning”, nor was she a “certified planner.”
Roy W. Kienitz, 2001-03
Mr. Kienitz held a degree in aquatic biology and worked at numerous posts involving environmental issues. In 2000, he was the Founder and chair of Smart Growth America. Again, not a “certified planner.”
Audrey E. Scott, 2003-07
Former Councilwoman and Mayor of Bowie, plus serving a term on the PG County council, Ms. Scott’s resume closely resembles Ms. Peters. Also not a “certified planner.”
Richard E. Hall, 2007-15
Mr. Hall has an extensive resume of planning related degrees and experience. It appears that he served as a Deputy under Ms. Scott. He is a “certified planner.”
David R. Craig, 2015-16
Mr. Craig hardly needs an introduction, but let’s do it anyways. Former City Councilman and Mayor of Havre de Grace, former member of the House of Delegates and State Senate, and Harford County Executive. Also not a “certified planner.”
By my count, since 1969 the Maryland Department of Planning has been led by one experienced planner, one academic planner, and four non-certified planners (plus one unknown). EDIT: With the new information about Mr. Wahbe, this means two experienced planners, one academic planner, and four non-certified planners.
So let’s recap. Ms. Peters wanted the Department of Planning to look like an office space, wanted her network infrastructure to operate efficiently, and has comparable experience to past secretaries in the realm of planning.
Now that we have thoroughly debunked the Democrat talking points against Ms. Peters appointment in every way shape and form, ask yourself why? None of the information I collected her was privileged or confidential. It was professional knowledge that can be Googled, or it was personal resumes that were present on the Maryland website. Did Senate Democrats actually perform their due diligence when vetting Ms. Peters? Or did they choose to go the route of partisan quackery?